Schedule for ALA 2016

ALA is getting close! In just a few short weeks, I’ll be at Orlando enjoying the Wizarding World of Harry Potter the company of thousands of fellow librarians. (Well, maybe a little bit of both!) ALA Editions is graciously hosting an event for my book, and I’ll also be co-presenting a couple of career workshops and giving a poster on assessment. Here’s where and when you can find me!

Career Development Workshop
Preparing for Today’s Job Market I: The Job Search
Saturday, 9:30 – 10:30am
ALA JobLIST Career Center

The number one goal for many of us is finding a job. And not just any job — a job that we like, a job that we can grow in and learn from and feel proud of, a job that will enhance our skill sets and propel our careers.  This hands-on workshop will help you feel more confident in your job search by giving you the tools to organize a search, analyze job listings, and write effective, compelling cover letters and resumes. We will also discuss the importance of creating, and maintaining, a professional online presence and look at examples of online portfolios and profiles.

Author Event for Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries
Saturday, 2:30 – 3:15pm
ALA Store (near shuttle bus entrance)

Come visit with me to chat about providing research support for your faculty and students! The ALA Store will also have copies of the book for purchase. 

Career Development Workshop:
Preparing for Today’s Job Market II: The Interview

Sunday, 1:30 – 2:30pm
ALA JobLIST Career Center

Congratulations, you got an interview… now what?! During this workshop we’ll look at what to expect when interviewing at different types of libraries: academic, special, and public.We’ll discuss both remote and in-person interviews, and talk about the importance of doing your research, preparing questions for your interviewers, and showing confidence and personality during your interview. Throughout, we’ll emphasize how to go beyond the qualifications listed on your resume in order to show a potential employer that you are the right candidate for the job.

Poster: Utilizing a Tool to Build a Culture of Assessment: The Data Framework
Sunday, 2:30 – 4:30
Exhibits Hall, Posters 2 (Infrastructure)

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries first developed a Data Framework over a decade ago to track what library data was collected and reported. Since data use has grown exponentially, a major revision and reconfiguration was necessary. The revised Data Framework is a Tableau-based tracking tool and a data management map. This poster will be valuable for librarians desiring better data control throughout their organization and increasing staff interest in data collection and use.


Joining Columbia!

Things have been quiet on the blog for a bit, because news was on the horizon… Yesterday, I began my new position as Journalism & Digital Resources Librarian at Columbia University! In this capacity, I’m tweeting @JournalismLib (separate from my personal account). (Now to update my disclaimer: all opinions on this blog/ePortfolio/website are completely my own and not associated with Columbia University. Whew, that’s done!) I’m splitting my time between being embedded in the Journalism School (the Journalism Library is a room within Pulitzer Hall–yes, that Pulitzer) and the Lehman Social Sciences Library. I have some big shoes to fill–Cris Erugany, the former Journalism Librarian, was not only talented and justly beloved, she’s a fellow Star Wars/Trek enthusiast. (Was this meant to be, or what?) Continue reading

Pondering Professional Online Presence

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about professional online presence. Last week, I attended an ACRL-NY discussion group on Demystifying the Hiring Process.” Amidst the discussion of the differences in search committee practices across institutional types (fascinating!), we ended up discussing how online presence can play a big role in how organizations view you professionally. (Also see: Susanne Markgren‘s great article about online presence for academic librarians.) In particular, we discussed how this has changed in recent years. Five years ago, your online presence was primarily thought of as a potential liability (delete those old frat party photos from Facebook!), whereas now it’s seen as a way to promote yourself as well as show potential employers your social media and PR savvy.

Juggling Social Media

In addition to my usual tending to my online presence and in particular my e-portfolio on this website, lately I’ve branched out to create electronic portfolios for clients. (Email me if you’re interested in my services!) It’s a way to keep my “geek skillz” up-to-date, and I enjoy the challenge of taking a bunch of content and ideas from someone, and creating a web presence out of that. It’s also reminded me that no online presence solution is universal. For instance, I’m highly active on this website, Twitter, Instagram, and to a lesser extent Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn. I use Flickr primarily as a storage space for my Instagram photos and blog graphics (although that ebbs and flows, depending on my Nikon D7000’s use in a given month). I’ve ignored Pinterest completely, and I’ve nearly given up on my own Tumblr (although it’s a great space for, say, Ryan Gosling’s feminism and Chandler Dancing On Things).

And that’s okay. We should use social media in a way that’s natural for us, in a way that leaves us excited, rather than overwhelmed. Everyone doesn’t need a Twitter account–regardless of the fact that I regularly gasp when someone says they don’t use it. If it doesn’t meet your needs, then choose to be active somewhere else. Find the tool that works for you, feeds into your interests and strengths and helps you grow.

Here’s why I use what I do. Take it or leave it. 🙂


TwitterAcademiaIt’s tempting to just shoot off whatever’s on my mind, and I do think it’s fun to use it as a public text-message at times. However, it’s most useful for me as a place to see news headlines, what my colleagues and friends are reading and discussing, and to get quick feedback on ideas, questions, website templates. In fact, I use this more for blog reading now than I do my actual RSS feed readers. It’s excellent for knowledge-sharing: I live-tweet at conferences, and I watch live-tweets from conferences I can’t attend (long live hashtags!). I love that I can connect not only to colleagues and friends, but also organizations, professional associations, research groups–you name it. When we lived in Ukraine, it was the most “at home” I felt online because I could see people talking online, regardless of time zone–even if most of my friends were asleep in the US (leaving Facebook a ghost town until 4pm Ukraine time).

And the best part of Twitter? It’s SHORT. The length of this blog post (yikes) is a case in point of why Twitter is important to me: 1) it’s brief enough to be digestible, and 2) it makes me think, consider, and edit my content.


InstagramMosaicI don’t tend to use Instragram in a specifically “professional” manner, but I do link it on my professional online accounts like LinkedIn and Why? Because personality is important. I don’t want to work at an institution where I clock in and do my job and clock out. I want to work at a place that’s full of vibrant, interesting, exciting people who are passionate about what they do. Thus, shouldn’t I advertise to the world that I’m also that kind of person? That, yes, I’m a great researcher and an awesome librarian, but I also love urban architecture and great cups of coffee and travel–and that’s what my Instagram feed shows. It shows beauty and humor in everyday moments, and that’s important to me.


 I use this website for two purposes. First, it houses my electronic portfolio, so I have a single URL to give potential employers, new colleagues, etc. It shows the information from my CV (that’s fancy academic talk for “resume,” for all the non-nerds in the hizzy) in more rational, digestible chunks, plus it allows me to show far more than I can on my CV. For instance, I instead of merely listing my presentations, I can embed or link to the actual slideshows with Prezi and Slideshare. I can include photos of myself engaged in these activities, which puts a more human face on my credentials. I can link to the full text of my master’s thesis and my dissertation (coming soon!). If I could, I’d send that URL to every potential employer and nix the boring, rambling CV format altogether. THIS is a far more interesting and holistic picture of who I am and what I do.

The second way I use this WordPress website is what I’m doing now: blogging. I’ve been blogging since 2005 in various incarnations, and for a long time I had a personal blog and a professional one–and it was too much. So now I only blog here, about what I’m cooking or researching or seeing or thinking about. A neat upside is that my family and friends get to see a bit of what goes on in my Nerdy Academic Side, and my colleagues get to see that, wow, I am a HUGE scifi-geektastic-fangirl (see evidence below) who likes scuba diving and lifting weights and has surprisingly good chops in the kitchen. That doesn’t mean I’m any less qualified as an academic, and it may help me connect with people that I never anticipated. I strongly believe that networking is a Big Deal in all aspects of life–but that’s another post. 🙂


L to R: me as Harry Potter for Halloween; Wonder Women underoos at 5 years old; with Gene Luen Yang; as Pink Five (obscure Star Wars fanfilm reference); as Mara Jade Skywalker (semi-obscure Star Wars novel/comics reference); in one of my several Batgirl shirts

Your online presence is super-important, and now is the time to think about it. You’re already employed? Great, then you can create a presence now that has real weight and substance behind it before you ever go looking for your next job. Unemployed? Great–you have all the time in the world to work on this, so that when you’re employed again, all you have to do to keep it updated is tweak. Looking for more tips, hands-on help, or someone to create a turnkey site? Then shoot me an email (or tweet!), and let’s talk.

About… Dr. Starr Hoffman

I’m an academic librarian researching the role of libraries in higher education. I’m a recent Las Vegas transplant; born in California, raised in Texas, recently moved from New York City, and spent a year in Kharkov, Ukraine finishing my PhD in Higher Education. I’m currently the Head of Planning and Assessment at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I blog about academia, books, expat life, geekery, and travel.

Continue reading

MLS, MA, PhD, EdD… Academic Librarians & Degrees

I have many, many thoughts on this topic. This is by no means a comprehensive statement, but it’s a beginning. I’ve been asked by a lot of librarians why I’m getting a doctorate, if there’s a purpose for PhD/EdD’d librarians, if they should get a doctorate, etc… so here are my initial, top-layer, off-the-top-of-my-spiky-redhead thoughts.

I’m a firm believer that doctoral degrees can help academic librarians become more knowledgeable, skilled, experienced, and in particular better socialized to the faculty life of teaching and research. Such a degree helps you better sympathize with graduate students and gives greater insight into faculty needs. Doctoral work helps make a stronger argument for the professionalization of academic librarians and their true equality to faculty. Doctorate programs usually help train you in original research, statistical analysis, and professional expectations for presenting and publishing. In turn, if you’re already an experienced academic librarian who’s presented and/or published a little, you’ll find some class assignments to be a lot easier than your classmates. (When many of my doctoral classmates got stage fright presenting to 10 fellow students, I was grateful for experience with library instruction and conference presenting!)

Q: Would more education make me more qualified?

A: No, not automatically. There is nothing to say that one librarian with a MLS & PhD is a “better” librarian than one with simply a MLS. Many librarians won’t get a raise when they complete a doctorate, so you must determine if the money, time, and effort put into it will be worth your while. Then again, a doctorate may qualify you for a promotion to a higher position (such as dean of an academic library). But not all deans have or need doctorates, either. This is a super-complex question. In fact, the whole area of education for academic library professionals is pretty wild, in my opinion–there’s no agreement on the need for a second master’s, let alone a doctorate. There’s still a healthy debate about what makes a true “librarian”–what about full time staff without MLSes who’ve worked reference desks and cataloging for 30+ years and know far more than I do about libraries? What about my mom, who was in title my high school’s librarian for years, but hadn’t yet completed her bachelor’s degree? I’m not in full agreement with ALA (gasp!) on their strict definition of the term “librarian” even while I contrarily believe that degreed librarians need to be viewed as true professionals (and should thus act and dress accordingly, but that’s a rant for another blog post). But I digress.

Q: Can a doctorate inform me about a subject, research practices, the environment in which I work?

A: Yes. If you want to become an amazing subject expert, or to broaden your research skills to an absurd point, or if you want to study the environment in which your library operates (in my case, studying the higher education context in which academic libraries operate), great: the doctorate is wonderful for that. But… be sure you really, really, really-times-5-million want to do it. Please read this post about my experiences and think some more before applying. You can become a great subject expert without a PhD/EdD, or even without a second master’s for that matter. You can improve your research skills without going back to grad school. You’re a librarian, you know how to read! Go read books, research your topic, heck audit some classes, even. But only enter a PhD/EdD program if you absolutely must. It’s immensely rewarding, and it’s got to be because much of the time (especially if you’re working full time while doing it), it’s absolute hell.

Q: At my institution I’m faculty with faculty rank and tenure potential. Should I seek a PhD/EdD?

A: Depends. Ask knowledgeable individuals at your library–actually, ask several of them. Look at those who have successfully earned tenure and look up their educational background. You can still present and publish your research widely without a doctorate–librarians and doctoral students do so all the time. If it’s a requirement (stated or not) at your institution and you plan to stay and seek tenure, of course, do so. If it’s not required, what are your other reasons for seeking a PhD? If you’re simply getting it because it’s expected and/or you’d like to have a doctorate, back away from that application slowly! Trust me, you’ll be a lot happier if you don’t sign up for the craziness… and you’ll probably have more time to do all that presenting and publishing that’s expected of you.

Q: Will any of these rules hold true for all academic librarian positions and for all individuals?

A: Of course not. Every institution, library, position, and librarian is different. You alone know best yourself and your position–you’re the only one who can truly decide if further education is right for you.

Weigh the pros and cons, and ask yourself why you’re considering a doctorate.

  • Do you plan to seek a position higher in the library ladder (management, administration)?
  • Are you considering a career in academic administration parallel to or above an administration position in the libraries?
  • Are you considering a shift to a faculty teaching or research position?
  • Do you want to push yourself (and possibly your family) beyond your wildest expectations?
  • Are you comfortable with a large amount of risk, and the very real potential that you will not complete your dissertation?
  • Are you willing to put yourself back in the “student” role as lesser than faculty? (Believe me, this is tough!)
  • Are you so fascinated in your chosen field that you’re already voluntarily reading articles, books, and blog posts on it in your free time?
  • Do your friends and family avoid talking to you because you’re always talking about your chosen field?

Warning signs… if the statements below describe you, think again about what 6-10 years of a PhD will be like.

  • You constantly wonder how people “find the time to read.” (Exception: if you’ve been in school recently, you’re excused from this warning sign.)
  • You’d like to become a better subject librarian / faculty liaison.
  • You want to become a more clear peer to the academic faculty at your institution. (I think this is a great benefit of having a PhD as a librarian, but it in no way is a good single reason to get a PhD.)
  • Summers off sound like a great idea, so maybe you’ll try teaching.
  • You’d like a raise.
  • You’re really keen on the idea of being called “Dr.”
  • Getting a doctorate sounds like a good idea.
  • You’ve always wanted a doctorate.

Should (non-MLS) PhD-holders seek library positions? Believe it or not, we don’t really have more openings in the library than in your average academic department. If you’re truly interested in library work, then yes. If you have experience working in libraries and a hint of what you’ll be doing, okay. If the library needs an in-depth subject expert, great. But if you’re simply looking to expand your employment horizons, then this isn’t the place for you. Just like my MLS, MA, and in-progress PhD in Higher Ed don’t qualify me to teach or research in your department (unless it’s my areas of expertise & training: library science, art history, or education), having a doctorate doesn’t mean you’re qualified to work in a library. Being a good researcher doesn’t necessarily mean you are good at helping others research (as a reference librarian); the exception is if a library needs a good bibliographer in your specific topic. But I’m not talking about non-traditional library positions that are seeking outside the librarian pool of candidates. If you want to be a librarian that badly, go get your MLS and becoming socialized in the culture and body of knowledge, then come get a library job. I don’t mean to sound like a grump, but I want to point out that just as every academic department is a distinct entity with its own knowledge, professional practices, and procedures, so is the library. If you’re not versed in that culture and/or don’t care about it as much as your academic field, you won’t enjoy a position in the library much.